‘Arrow’ (Season 4): Analysis of a Mega-Finale

Another year, another multi-part Arrow finale that brings the season’s narrative to a fairly definitive close. As its CW compatriots continue to offer smaller, more contained finales, the Arrowverse originator has continued to provide gigantic season climaxes, with episodes that stretch out over no fewer than three or four episodes. What other show has a town get demolished by a nuclear blast and still has two whole episodes left? As such, this feels like a good time to look back at this year’s mega-finale as a whole – stretching across “Genesis,” “Monument Point,” “Lost in the Flood” and “Schism” – and see how well it all played out.

First, when I say mega-finale, it’s in reference to how the episodes at the end of a season tend to bleed into and majorly affect one another. While storylines that have been playing out since the beginning come to a head as well, these mega-finales also tend to reintroduce other conflicts, or give the characters a mini-arc to go through for the duration. I’m talking about Diggle killing his brother and dealing with the guilt, or the return of Felicity’s father and watching her forge a relationship with him. There’s also the abundance of villains, with Damien Darhk joined by Malcolm Merlyn, Anarky, Brick and Brother Eye as threats across the last four episodes.

Also, these mega-finales tend to have episodes that bleed right into each other, with each hour acting as an act in a larger epic than serving as a single story. Once Darhk begins his quest to bring about a nuclear apocalypse, the action is pretty much non-stop from the start of “Genesis” to the final street brawl in the finale. It can make for an exhausting viewing experience all in one go, but works well as a weekly serial.

In many ways, this was Arrow’s biggest ending ever, with nothing short of global annihilation on the line. Of course, this also threatened to cause the personal stakes to get lost in the shuffle a bit, even as the show did its best to avoid that happening. For some characters, the personal arcs were the most satisfying; it was good to see Felicity and her father working together, and Diggle losing his brother was hard to say. Things even worked on the villain’s side, as Darhk losing his wife worked as a way to push him even further in to madness.

Still, where some stuff worked, even more fell flat. There were several deaths here at season’s end, but several of them failed to land. Alex, in particular, never worked as an interesting love interest for Thea, and his death felt more incidental than anything; that no one really ever commented on it seems to suggest the writers felt similarly. And while it feels unfair to lump in the conclusion of the flashback, Taiana’s death fell flat as well.

There were also issues with pacing in the final episodes, particularly in regards to how quickly some things were glossed over. I’ve already mentioned Alex’s death, but Oliver’s ability to negate Darhk’s powers never felt fully earned, particularly given how supercharged the villain ad become. Also, the fact that a town of thousands was wiped out barely seemed to register with the characters. Yes, it was an unfortunate lesser of two evils moment, but this still feels like the sort of thing Felicity should’ve been left devastated by. Instead, she was left happily standing by Ollie after everyone else had left.

Speaking of the ending, it was a particularly downbeat one despite the team’s victory over Darhk. Lance, Thea, and Diggle all seemed broken after the events of the finale, which each character leaving town in an attempt to find some sense of peace and order in their lives again. Given the lack of any real cliffhanger for next season, it felt depressingly final, making Team Arrow’s victory seem like a Pyrrhic one. It’s an even more downbeat ending given that this was supposed to be the season to bring a bit more lightheartedness to the show.

So, sadly, I feel that this was ultimately the least satisfying finale arc the show has given us. The finale to beat remains season two, the final conflict with Deathstroke still the best emotional climax the show has ever delivered. Season one’s finale, meanwhile, was smaller-scale, but worked for what the show was in its freshman year. If not for the downbeat nature of this ending, I’d put it on par quality wise with last year’s conclusion. However, season three ended on a more upbeat note, and could’ve actually worked as a satisfying season finale. This ending therefore stands as a low point, and hopefully the show will deliver a more satisfying conclusion to a more cohesive story in season five.